Menus Subscribe Search

Follow us


Perhaps Veterans Don’t Need Special Job Help

• August 12, 2011 • 8:00 AM

While the Obama administration pushes forward the idea of a “reverse boot camp” for veterans mustering out, economists say these unemployed vets aren’t all that different from civilian jobless.

Young male veterans, aged 18-24, have historically had higher rates of unemployment than other men their age. This has been true during peacetime and in war since 9/11, but also before. In 2010, these vets had an unemployment rate of about 22 percent, a figure not statistically different from other young men but still more than twice the national average.

That number has understandably startled politicians and the public. Last week, President Obama unveiled a host of job proposals aimed at doing right by America’s war vets at a time when it seems many of them are facing graver challenges in the labor market than they did in conflict zones.

“Our incredible servicemen and women need to know that America values them not simply for what they can do in uniform, but for what they can do when they come home,” the president said. He then announced proposals to offer tax credits to companies that hire vets and to create a kind of “reverse boot camp” for separating soldiers as they transition to civilian life.

The president’s speech at the Washington Navy Yard tapped into the idea that America owes a special responsibility to its veterans, even as unemployment for many demographics remains at dismal heights. But what if the needs of transitioning soldiers aren’t all that different from the rest of the labor force? You might never hear a politician suggest this, but economists do.

David Loughran, a senior economist with the RAND Corporation, points out that veterans generally have lower unemployment on average than the rest of the population. It’s the younger group — the 18-to-24 year olds — for whom the reverse is true. Loughran suspects this is primarily because veterans in that age group are likely to have recently left the military and to be out looking for new work at much higher rates than their peers. And, well, it takes time to find a job. [class name="dont_print_this"]

Idea Lobby

THE IDEA LOBBY
Miller-McCune's Washington correspondent Emily Badger follows the ideas informing, explaining and influencing government, from the local think tank circuit to academic research that shapes D.C. policy from afar.

[/class]

“In my opinion, that’s the overwhelming reason why veteran unemployment is higher,” Loughran said. “And if that’s the overwhelming reason, then I’m not really sure what the right policy response is to that beyond what’s already being done. There’s only so much you can do. You can say, ‘This is how you make a resumé, this is how you look on the computer to find jobs that might meet your skills. …’ I’m not sure there’s anything that unique about being a veteran in that context. It’s more about being young and looking for a job.”

There’s not much evidence the military’s existing Transition Assistance Program helps anyone. In fact, Matt Flavin, director of the White House Veterans, Military Families and Wounded Warrior Task Force, wrote on the White House blog that his own trip through the three-day course was a memorable experience — “if only because I hadn’t seen overhead projectors and transparencies used since I was in grade school.”

But as officials consider revamping the program into some kind of intense civilian job-training boot camp, it’s worth noting that the problem of persistent veteran unemployment is not as dire as the public perception of it. As that 18-to-24-year-old cohort later becomes a class of, say, 30-to-36-year-old civilian workers, Loughran says the unemployment gap between veterans and non-vets disappears. If the gap lasted for years, then we should be more troubled, Loughran says.

“That suggests this is an issue about transition; it’s not something about, well, people who are in the military receive all this training, but it’s completely useless in the civilian sector, so they’re hopelessly behind their civilian peers and will never catch up,” he said. “I think that view has no support in the data.”

Recently separated veterans also automatically qualify for unemployment compensation, meaning they may have more flexibility to take time finding the right job than a recently graduated college student with massive loan debt. (And who would begrudge vets who’ve just come out of combat the chance to take this government benefit and its accompanying recovery time?)

All of this doesn’t mean the military’s existing initiative doesn’t need improving. Erin Silva examined the Transition Assistance Program for her master’s thesis at the University of Rhode Island. She discovered something Matt Flavin may have already suspected: Soldiers who do attend the program’s employment workshops don’t seem to have a leg up in employment outcomes.

“It’s really sad that it doesn’t work, that I came to the conclusion that I did,” Silva said of the program. “I was hoping if somebody did come across [this research], they would say, ‘These are things that are wrong with it, changes do need to be made.'”

For starters, she suggests the program should bring in actual employers and human-resource professionals to teach interview and job-search skills. And Loughran adds that we still need to learn more about the impact on employment of the rising incidence of injuries like post-traumatic stress disorder.

He is skeptical that any “reverse boot camp” will be designed in such a way that researchers will be able to track and measure its effectiveness, but the idea may be a public relations victory anyway.

“It’s a very sympathetic group,” Loughran said. “It’s natural for the public to have this idea that this is a special group that needs special attention. But I’m not sure the data necessarily support that.”

Sign up for the free Miller-McCune.com e-newsletter.

“Like” Miller-McCune on Facebook.

Follow Miller-McCune on Twitter.

Add Miller-McCune.com news to your site.

Subscribe to Miller-McCune

Emily Badger
Emily Badger is a freelance writer living in the Washington, D.C. area who has contributed to The New York Times, International Herald Tribune and The Christian Science Monitor. She previously covered college sports for the Orlando Sentinel and lived and reported in France.

More From Emily Badger

A weekly roundup of the best of Pacific Standard and PSmag.com, delivered straight to your inbox.

Recent Posts

October 20 • 2:00 PM

The Risk of Getting Killed by the Police If You Are White, and If You Are Black

An analysis of killings by police shows outsize risk for young black males.


October 20 • 12:00 PM

Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they’re motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.


October 20 • 11:00 AM

My Dog Comes First: The Importance of Pets to Homeless Youth

Dogs and cats have both advantages and disadvantages for street-involved youth.


October 20 • 10:00 AM

Homophobia Is Not a Thing of the Past

Despite growing support for LGBT rights and recent decisions from the Supreme Court regarding the legality of same-sex marriage, the battle for acceptance has not yet been decided.


October 20 • 8:00 AM

Big Boobs Matter Most

Medical mnemonics are often scandalous and sexist, but they help the student to both remember important facts and cope with challenging new experiences.


October 20 • 6:00 AM

When Disease Becomes Political: The Likely Electoral Fallout From Ebola

Will voters blame President Obama—and punish Democrats in the upcoming mid-term elections—for a climate of fear?


October 20 • 4:00 AM

Coming Soon: The Anatomy of Ignorance


October 17 • 4:00 PM

What All Military Families Need to Know About High-Cost Lenders

Lessons from over a year on the beat.


October 17 • 2:00 PM

The Majority of Languages Do Not Have Gendered Pronouns

A world without “he.” Or “she.”


October 17 • 11:01 AM

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.


October 17 • 10:00 AM

Can Science Fiction Spur Science Innovation?

Without proper funding, the answer might not even matter.


October 17 • 8:00 AM

Seattle, the Incredible Shrinking City

Seattle is leading the way in the micro-housing movement as an affordable alternative to high-cost city living.


October 17 • 6:00 AM

‘Voodoo Death’ and How the Mind Harms the Body

Can an intense belief that you’re about to die actually kill you? Researchers are learning more about “voodoo death” and how it isn’t limited to superstitious, foreign cultures.


October 17 • 4:00 AM

That Arts Degree Is Paying Off

A survey of people who have earned degrees in the arts find they are doing relatively well, although their education didn’t provide much guidance on managing a career.


October 16 • 4:00 PM

How (Some) Economists Are Like Doomsday Cult Members

Cognitive dissonance and clinging to paradigms even in the face of accumulated anomalous facts.


October 16 • 2:00 PM

The Latest—and Most Mysterious—Player in the Nasty Battle Over Net Neutrality

As the FCC considers how to regulate Internet providers, the telecom industry’s stealth campaign for hearts and minds encompasses everything from art installations to LOLcats.


October 16 • 12:00 PM

How Many Ads Is Too Many Ads?

The conundrum of online video advertising.


October 16 • 11:00 AM

Unlocking Consciousness

A study of vegetative patients closes in on the nature of consciousness.


October 16 • 10:00 AM

The False Promises of Higher Education

Danielle Henderson spent six years and $60,000 on college and beyond. The effects of that education? Not as advertised.


October 16 • 8:00 AM

Faster Justice, Closer to Home: The Power of Community Courts

Community courts across the country are fighting judicial backlog and lowering re-arrest rates.


October 16 • 6:00 AM

Killing Your Husband to Save Yourself

Without proper legal instruments, women with abusive partners are often forced to make a difficult choice: kill or be killed.


October 16 • 4:00 AM

Personality Traits Linked to Specific Diseases

New research finds neurotic people are more likely to suffer a serious health problem.


October 16 • 2:00 AM

Comparing Apples to the Big Apple: Yes, Washington, D.C., Is More Expensive Than New York City

Why shouldn’t distant locales tied to jobs in the urban core count in a housing expenditure study?


October 15 • 4:00 PM

Why Asian American Parents Are the Least Likely to Spank Their Kids

Highly educated, middle-class parents are less likely to use corporal punishment to discipline their children than less-educated, working-class, and poor parents.


October 15 • 2:00 PM

The Federal Government’s New Doctor Payments Website Is Worthy of a Recall

Charles Ornstein takes a test drive using the federal government’s new website for drug and device payments and finds it virtually unusable.


Follow us


Love and Hate in Israel and Palestine

Psychologists find that parties to a conflict think they're motivated by love while their enemies are motivated by hate.

How to Water a Farm in Sandy Ground

Physicists investigate how to grow food more efficiently in fine-grained soil.

Unlocking Consciousness

A study of vegetative patients closes in on the nature of consciousness.

Advice for Emergency Alert Systems: Don’t Cry Wolf

A survey finds college students don't always take alerts seriously.

Brain’s Reward Center Does More Than Manage Rewards

Nucleus accumbens tracks many different connections in the world, a new rat study suggests.

The Big One

One company, Amazon, controls 67 percent of the e-book market in the United States—down from 90 percent five years ago. September/October 2014 new-big-one-5

Copyright © 2014 by Pacific Standard and The Miller-McCune Center for Research, Media, and Public Policy. All Rights Reserved.